2019 Race Recap #22: Wicked Half Marathon

This wasn’t quite a last minute thing, but it hasn’t been on my radar very long. Choosing the “no swag” option, saved $10 off an already super reasonable entry fee, and needing a long run – and preferably a long race, as I’ve been running long solo and a few group runs, but without the competition to push me harder – it seemed like a good idea.

The course incorporates a lot (most?) of the Black Cat race course, so I was familiar with running it without having run this specific race previously. I was hopeful that I could hit a good time – after the Kelley Half last month, I really wanted to test the proposition that it really was the heat that day that doomed my race.

Now, bearing in mind low entry fees typically indicate spartan accommodations – and since this is the same race management company that does the Black Cat, I knew what to expect – I wasn’t disappointed: the starting line was a white spray painted line.

Today’s weather was expected to be warmer than seasonable, and it was: almost 60-degrees at 7 AM and well over 70 by the time I finished. Given this, I was concerned that I may not do as well as I had hoped.

Pretty cool medal too.

To the race: I started out entirely too fast, an utterly unsustainable pace, but for roughly the first half of the race, I kept a sub-8 minute pace going. I started thinking that I had a shot at besting – or at least coming close to – my Horseneck Half time earlier this year. And then…the hill I had forgotten about. Damnit. That slowed me down a bit, but not too much. From that point I got progressively slower and as I got slower, I got progressively more negative in my internal conversation. The old saw that you run the first half of the race with your legs and the second half with your head? Yeah.

By mile 13, I was really scuffing, but I knew it was close so I picked up the pace. That post 13 stretch (my watch clocked in at 13.3 – as a USTF certified course, I should have expected a longer than advertised distance) was among my fastest of the race. My official time: 1:48:23. Respectable, mid-8 pace, but given that my pace through half of it was sub-8, it really lets you know how much my pace fell off. Learnings? Well Horseneck was consistently about 7:40-8:00 pace. This was 7:11 to 9. Start a little slower, stay fast: my heart rate spiked too high and I had to slow down, had I maintained a slower pace I could have held onto it longer. All things I already knew, but sometimes have to be reminded of. Also, I need to do more hill work; running around Cambridge, MA has shown me that I can maintain pace, but I am missing the hills of Worcester.

I love this area and the course is great: down through downtown Salem, along the harbor in Marblehead, around Ocean Boulevard and back. Salem is awesome. Marblehead is beautiful. I really did like the race. I was disappointed that I didn’t do better, but heartened to find it was a personal top 3 finish. In fact, really pleased that my Top 3 Fastest Halfs, have all been this year. #OlderAndBetter

Finish!

Results:

127/607, M40-49: 17/52, Chip: 1:48:18.7 Gun: 1:48:23

Previous Results:

2019: Horseneck Half Marathon 1:43:32
2019: 42nd New Bedford Half Marathon: 1:45:58
2019: 13th Wicked Half Marathon 1:48:23
2018: 41st New Bedford Half Marathon: 1:48:57
2017: Worcester Half Marathon: 1:51:56
2018: Boston Athletic Association Half Marathon 1:54:11
2018: Clearwater Half Marathon: 1:56:32
2018: Horseneck Half Marathon: 1:57:29
2017: Cambridge Half Marathon: 1:57:38
2019: John & Jessie Kelley-Ocean Beach Half Marathon: 1:58:47
2016: Black Goose Half Marathon: 2:00:48
2018: Independence Rhode Race: 2:06:32
2017: Upton State Forest Half Marathon (Trail): 2:18:01.9
2019: Wallum Lake Half Marathon (Trail):2:38:01.1

2019 Race Recap #16: 57th John & Jessie Kelley Half Marathon

A caveat: calling it the 57th Half Marathon is a bit of a misnomer. The race has been run 57 times, but it hasn’t always been a half marathon. It began as a 12-mile race (because, obvi, that makes sense), but became a half marathon in 2017. So, if we’re being real, its the 3rd Half Marathon. They’re really referring to the 57th running of what is now the Kelley Half Marathon, or more specifically the Kelley Road Race. Continuity matters, baby. What whatevs. The entry fee is zero. Always has been.

That’s something I’ve spent not inconsiderable amount of time trying to figure out: how do you mobilize a community of volunteers – there were plenty today from registration to water stops – have free parking at the muni lot, have post-race food, AND race swag (a really nice finisher medal) and ask only donations to the local food bank? At registration you can submit an additional contribution, but it’s totally voluntary. I mean, think about this: it’s a free race, just sign up. If the weather is crummy, people don’t show. BUT they still have the medals. Last year it rained. Today it was swampy, humid air. Now, they take the first 1000 registrations, then they’re “Sold Out.” I know this year they were full, and today 615 runners ran. So perhaps that’s what they bank on – roughly 65%. I don’t know, but I’ve paid more money for races where the medals didn’t show up or were multipurpose – 5k and half – or whatever.

Pretty sweet swag for a $0-cost race

Now, the point here was not to race, but to get my long run in. My friend Derya and I were just going to run and forget about pace because we’re doing a trail race tomorrow. I had a target goal of finishing under 2-hours: I haven’t been running particularly well as of late, and really hadn’t run much more than 8-9 miles at a time for a while. The weather was oppressive and as soon as I got out of my car in the parking lot, I knew I was in for a long slog.

Now, because it starts and finishes at the beach, there were full facilities for restrooms, which was a godsend after driving the 90-minutes to New London with a cup of coffee. The parking at Ocean Beach was free (another head scratcher). The race was chip timed, so there was no particular race to the starting line, and off we went.

By my watch there was some 560′ of elevation gain on the course – not quite, “flat with some rolling hills,” although the race site does disclose a not insignificant hill at mile 10. I didn’t start out racing – over the first 4-miles or so I was running about 8:35 pace- but after mile 3, I had to slow down because my ankles were giving it to me. It was difficult walking and I was wondering at that point if I was going to finish, but eventually I pulled myself together and ran. It was at this point Derya caught me and asked if I needed anything, and since the answer was “no” she took off but not before I complained about my ankles.

A little further up, I caught her and she said she was going to force herself to go slower and asked how my ankles were. Good enough. And that was the last time I saw her.

For the rest of the race, I did intervals – running, then walking, rinse, repeat. Folks along the course had their hoses out – THANK YOU!! – and the volunteers were great handing out water. I had some really nice conversations along the way – I was wearing my Central Mass Striders singlet and a few people cheered me on for it, including one person who seemed to know who I am but for the life of me I had no idea who she was.

I was really struggling at mile 11 when I realized that by the time I was there, I had finished Horseneck just a few months ago. I also tried to remember that the goal wasn’t to race and only to finish in under 2-hours – something that seemed somewhat suspect at this point. It was getting hotter, and apparently more humid if that was possible, and all I wanted to do was anything other than whatever I was doing – which at this point was running.

By the time I completed mile 12, I realized I had an outside shot of hitting my target of 2-hours. Now, look, 2-hours is a great goal for most people – some experienced runners I know have yet to crack that barrier. I’m not taking anything away from them, I hope, when I say that for me generally speaking 2-hours is not a good time. My goal has always been sub-2 hours and I’ve come up short twice: my very first one saw me missing 2 by 48 seconds, and last years Bristols Independence Rhode Race where I was experiencing a chest cold or infection or whatever, but I came in at 2:06. I was hoping today was not going to be the day when I hit #3.

As I turned the corner and realized I was near the finish, I turned everything I had on to cross the line. I could see the clock as I headed into the last 1/10th mile – It had just clicked over to 1:58:00 so I knew I could, I SHOULD, make 2-hours, and I just went. By gun time, I finished 1:59:18. By chip time, I finished a little better – 1:58:47, a little less close than I thought, but either way, I still finished sub 2-hours.

I was feeling pretty good about myself, that I managed the conditions and came in roughly 18-minutes slower than my last half, which just happened to be my PR, but I finished clean.

Results:

211/615, M40-49: 28/63, Chip: 1:58:47.0 Gun: 1:59:19.0

Previous Results:

2019: Horseneck Half Marathon 1:43:32
2019: 42nd New Bedford Half Marathon: 1:45:58
2018: 41st New Bedford Half Marathon: 1:48:57
2017: Worcester Half Marathon: 1:51:56
2018: Boston Athletic Association Half Marathon 1:54:11
2018: Clearwater Half Marathon: 1:56:32
2018: Horseneck Half Marathon: 1:57:29
2017: Cambridge Half Marathon: 1:57:38
2019: John & Jessie Kelley-Ocean Beach Half Marathon: 1:58:47
2016: Black Goose Half Marathon: 2:00:48
2018: Independence Rhode Race: 2:06:32
2017: Upton State Forest Half Marathon (Trail): 2:18:01.9
2019: Wallum Lake Half Marathon (Trail):2:38:01.1

2019 Race Recap #12: Horseneck Half Marathon

I now have 2 Horseneck Half frisbees. I can’t remember the last time I used one

The headline here is “What a difference a year makes.” Last year, I was 5-pounds lighter, but suffering a bevvy of maladies. This was race 12 on the year for me in 2019, 23rd of the year in 2018. Last year my shin was taped up to mitigate my shin splint, this year just a couple ibuprofen to quell the nagging niggits of pain here and there.

I wanted redemption for last years race. My goal time was initially to land in my personal Top 3, and I pegged it at 1:50:00. I haven’t been running particularly well on the street over the last few weeks and my last 3 races were trail races where I typically don’t perform well at all, so not having a point of reference to what my street time would look like I wasn’t sure I knew what to expect. I made a post to Facebook, and Duke predicted 1:45:00; this seemed unfounded but I love the guy and his ambition, so I shot for that. 1:45:00 it was.

The weather was nothing if not perfect. Roughly 60-degrees, a little overcast, perhaps a bit breezy. My buddy Rich and I debated the relative merits of wearing sleeves vs. no-sleeves, ultimately deciding on the singlet, which was the correct answer. As the starting gun went off, we headed out of Horseneck Beach reservation, I kept pace with Rich for a moment or two and then saw the back of his shirt disappear, so I’m guessing the shirt choice was the correct one for him as well.

The course itself is great – the whole area is just fantastic anyway, so I’m sure it would be hard to put together a crummy course – long stretches of old, country roads, stretches of beach roads, and the date on the calendar. They do a nice job with the after party as well: great food and drink. Just a great event.

In complete contrast to last year, everything seemed to be perfect. I got a great night sleep, ate reasonably well, hydration was on point, got to the beach early, and probably most importantly got a mile warm up in – I’ve been finding that my heart rate skyrockets for the first mile or so of any activity, so getting that warm up in has been really important. Since I felt good, I didn’t have that negative self that I battled the whole race last year. At mile 5, I actually said to myself, “Okay, only 8 more miles to go.”

Mile 6 was the first mile I had that was over an 8-minute pace – I don’t think I’ve ever run that far going that fast (fast for me that is), and only had 3 miles that were slower than 8-minutes: Mile 10 inexplicably was an 8:11 pace. I’m not sure what happened there, I don’t recall anything significant happening there, I must’ve just zoned out or something because 2 of the next 3 miles were among my fastest. It turns out Mile 6 was my slowest last year – it has the most ascent of the race at 56′ (it’s a super flat course)

Interesting comparison: my heart rate averaged 2 bpm faster last year. SO I was faster AND in better condition. Despite my apparent weight gain: last year I was about 180, and this year….not.

Here’s your author desperately trying to “hide the pain.”

I knew I was closing in on a personal record, so I was playing this mental game with myself about not stopping. I saw the sign for the 3-mile mark of the 3.5-mile race so I knew the finish was roughly a half mile away and kept telling myself that I have this, that I can get this done at 1:45, I just have to keep running for 4-more minutes. When you’ve been running for 100-minutes, what’s 4-more, right?

It turns out, it was the longest 4-minutes of my life, but in the end I pulled it off. From the beach walk at the end, the course turns right for the last 0.1 mile or so, and I saw a four people ahead of me, so I used the last bit of energy I had to snipe three of them, the fourth got me by a couple seconds.

A perfect ending to a perfect day. So as of this writing, my two fastest halfs have been my two most recent halfs, and since I’m not getting any younger, I’m pleased with this.

Results:

2019: Horseneck Half Marathon 1:43:32
2019: 42nd New Bedford Half Marathon: 1:45:58
2018: 41st New Bedford Half Marathon: 1:48:57
2017: Worcester Half Marathon: 1:51:56
2018: Boston Athletic Association Half Marathon 1:54:11
2018: Clearwater Half Marathon: 1:56:32
2018: Horseneck Half Marathon: 1:57:29
2017: Cambridge Half Marathon: 1:57:38
2016: Black Goose Half Marathon: 2:00:48
2018: Independence Rhode Race: 2:06:32
2017: Upton State Forest Half Marathon (Trail): 2:18:01.9
2019: Wallum Lake Half Marathon (Trail):2:38:01.1

2019 Race Recap 8: Wallum Lake Half

I hadn’t really run a trail since September of last year. I’ve messed around on the trails near Mt. Wachusett with my friend Tom a couple of times, knowing that I’ve registered for the North Face Challenge again (not bad for a race I’ve said twice now that I would never do again), but nothing to the point that I should have to just jump in.

Winter is a tough time to run trails in New England if you don’t like snow (Tom does, so he does run trails then…then again, he likes running generally and trail running in specific so there’s that too), and my focus since January has been training for my last race. So, this was going to be a fairly significant kick in the pants anyway, but honestly I was unprepared for just how much it did kick me there.

I honestly think it was more a mental challenge than physical, but I was clearly not where I needed to be. It was about 1200′ of elevation gain, but it felt much worse. There weren’t many if any severe climbs, but my heart rate monitor/Garmin app tells me that I was working it hard…and it still took me 2:38:01 to complete.

The course is a roughly 6.5 mile figure-8-ish track – so the half is two laps. Mid-way through the second lap I was questioning whether I had gotten off course because I couldn’t remember seeing certain things, but would be reminded again either by physical evidence (footprints in the mud) or geologic marker (flat, glacial rocks). It’s been unseasonably rainy the last few days, so the course was ridiculously muddy as well, with several areas flooded out requiring either full-on attack through, or some pussy-footing around – more often than not I pussy-footed around until the later stages when it was very clear to me that there was nothing more to be gained by skirting the issue.

I really thought I was behind everyone by the time I was coming to the final mile or so. I was beat, and could barely will myself forward. Over the final…we’ll call it .3 mile, I could see another runner just walking and I figured I could probably catch him if he didn’t pick it up. For a fleeting second I wondered if he had already finished and was waiting on someone, but I needed something, anything to motivate me to finish stronger than what I was heading toward, so I pushed. It turns out he hadn’t finished, and I was able to run by him and grab a higher finishing slot. I finished almost a full hour AFTER the winner had. Remarkable considering I don’t run street half marathons at 1:39:00 and this was substantially harder than a street.

Results

39/67

2:38:01.1 +58:46.2

Previous Half Marathon Results

2019: 42nd New Bedford Half Marathon: 1:45:58
2018: 41st New Bedford Half Marathon: 1:48:57 
2017: Worcester Half Marathon: 1:51:56 
2018: Boston Athletic Association Half Marathon 1:54:11
2018: Clearwater Half Marathon: 1:56:32
2018: Horseneck Half Marathon: 1:57:29 
2017: Cambridge Half Marathon: 1:57:38
2016: Black Goose Half Marathon: 2:00:48
2018: Independence Rhode Race: 2:06:32 
2017: Upton State Forest Half Marathon (Trail): 2:18:01.9
2019: Wallum Lake Half Marathon (Trail):2:38:01.1

2019 Race Recap #5: New Bedford Half Marathon

This race was designed to be a challenge for me: it’s just about a month now before the Boston Marathon and I’m feeling jittery about it, about my training, all that.

You’d think someone looking so shaggy and decrepit would do his best to blend into the crowd.

I was heartened about my pacing last week at the Black Cat 20-Miler, or at least the first 3/4 of it, but concerned about my marathon pace. For me, that race was about getting in a long run, at racing pace, to give me some indication of how the marathon would go. As I expected, I began to break down after mile 15/16, but I ran a consistent pace to that point.

Today, was about running a half at racing pace. Now last year I ran this race to a PR – 1:48:57 – and that was without marathon training, and frankly my headspace hasn’t been good the last few days, running zero miles Friday or Saturday. I was short this week vs. last year by 5 miles. I thought I had a good chance at a PR given my racing of late, and I thought I set an aggressive goal time of 1:45:00. Given I’m +84 miles on the year from where I was last year and have many more long runs under my belt by this point, I felt good about it. This was my lucky 13th race last year, this year it’s my 5th. There may perhaps be a lesson in there.

This is the first half marathon I’ve done twice, so it’s the first course I can do an apples-to-apples comparison with. In every aspect of this course, I crushed last year. There isn’t a mile split that is better last year. My up hills are less bad this year than last – still suboptimal, but no where what it was last year. In reviewing my splits, last year my 10k was 50:31; this year it was 50:05 – so not ridiculously faster, by any stretch – but consistently faster. And I think that’s the message here: I ran a better race over 13.1 miles this year than I did last year, in particular the back half. The front half was good, the second half was better. I like that and I’ll take it.

I’m planning to re-run the Horseneck Half this year, so I’m hopeful I’ll have a better showing. It was during that race that I was suffering a shin splint and I’m convinced that cost me a considerable amount of time.

One update: This year I finished ahead of my friend who made some poop stops along the way last year. He informed me that as he went by the house he eventually stopped at last year, he waved at the people and had a bit of a reunion. I love my running people.

Previous Half Marathon Results

2019: 42nd New Bedford Half Marathon: 1:45:58
2018: 41st New Bedford Half Marathon: 1:48:57
2017: Worcester Half Marathon: 1:51:56
2018: Boston Athletic Association Half Marathon 1:54:11
2018: Clearwater Half Marathon: 1:56:32
2018: Horseneck Half Marathon: 1:57:29
2017: Cambridge Half Marathon: 1:57:38
2016: Black Goose Half Marathon: 2:00:48
2018: Independence Rhode Race: 2:06:32
2017: Upton State Forest Half Marathon (Trail): 2:18:01.9

2018 Race Recap #46: BAA Half Marathon

I’m at a bit of a loss as to how to feel about this race. The last half I did was horrendous after running it with a chest cold and the one previous with a taped up shin splint.  I really wanted to hit a personal best, and ideally hit 1:45:00.  That didn’t happen, although both were fully within reach. In the end, this was a long heaving “meh.” Sure. I out performed all but two previous halfs, but then again this was only my 9th – one of which was a trail race, so it’s not wholly comparable.  I felt great heading into mile 6, averaging about 8 minute miles and then…not so much.  I take some comfort from the idea that this is a big boy’s race – not flat, but “rolling hills” – but when you head in with certain expectations that aren’t met, it kind of stings.

It’s funny, I grew up around here. I remember rolling with my friends in Linda’s 1974 Pontiac Le Mans down the Jamaica Way, and never once did I say, “hey, you know what would be awesome? RUNNING this!” And yet, here I was. AND I paid to do it.  It had been years since I had been in this area and had forgotten just how hilly it is. That said, at this point I’m just griping.

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, outdoor
A slightly disappointing time, but I didn’t die.  At the 10-mile mark, I was at 1:25:00. It took me almost a full 30 minutes for the last 5k of the course. This is what upsets me most – I had a 5k in front of me and I blew it.

Normally, I wouldn’t have much to say about the course. It’s not waterfront. It doesn’t go through any historic areas of significant (other than my own personal history, I suppose), and yet when I was researching the elevation profile beforehand so I knew what to plan for, I found a blog  that was doing pretty much what this one does: a little bit of everything (actually, I kind of dig how he outlines his race results) but more specifically he recaps his races.  In it, he details the course – how beautiful it is.  Now, his review was from 2014 and I know the course hasn’t changed, so I deliberately took the time to pay attention. And I wasn’t disappointed. It was a fresh look at an area I so often overlooked as a kid.

The homes ARE magnificent, and the area really is beautiful along the “emerald necklace.” I’d like to thank him for that point of view because I wouldn’t have seen it left to my own devices.

Image may contain: one or more people, people playing sports and outdoor
It’s always nice having friends along the course.  Photo Credit: Joan Recore

As for organization, it’s the BAA.  It was top notch. Plenty of porta-potties, bag check was super organized. The only thing I was disappointed about was that according to the BAA, there was a cap of about 9000 runners: 3000 of whom entered by virtue of their distance medley (a 5k, 10k, and half-marathon), another 6000 or so entered first come first served and for charity, yet, the results show I was one of  6220. Hey, we’re in the age of Trump where apparently attendance numbers can be a subject of some dispute.

 

Previous Results

Boston Athletic Association Half Marathon 1:54:11
Independence Rhode Race: 2:06:32
Horseneck Half Marathon: 1:57:29
New Bedford Half Marathon: 1:48:57
Clearwater Half Marathon: 1:56:32
Cambridge Half Marathon: 1:57:38
Upton State Forest Half Marathon (Trail): 2:18:01.9
Worcester Half Marathon: 1:51:56
Black Goose Half Marathon: 2:00:48

2018 Race Recap #29: Independence Rhode Race Half Marathon

This shot treats me very kindly as it would appear that I’m actually running – I know it’s toward the end of the race because I’ve taken the head buff off and wrapped it on my wrist.

First, please excuse the late posting for this. I’ve been away and frankly, haven’t wanted to go out of my way to post.  This was THE WORST race ever. Hands down. I mean the course was beautiful, but the result – ugh, for more than a few reasons it was terrible.

At the start of the race — 6:30 AM — it was 73 degrees, and I’m guessing no less than 85% humidity.  I was already feeling a tad under the weather during and after the TVRC race on Thursday, but on Friday it hit me full on. I was huffing and puffing for the 5-miler, and I’m not at all convinced I didn’t slurp down some wonderful allergens and/or mold spores or something because Friday I woke up with a 100-degree temperature and coughing up lungies like you might read about. I spent the night on Friday coughing and gakking and wishing for sweet death.

This was going to be a S-show of a race and I really only had two options: DNS or just do it. I chose “Just Do It.”

Leading up to this week, my goal was 1:50.  I was feeling pretty confident that after all my tweaks and dings and dents I was at the other side and could pull off a decent time here.  With the phlegm and general lack of ability to breathe on race day, I was pretty sure that wasn’t going to happen but I was still hopeful that I would best my worst half time, I mean this was a pretty flat course, ocean front with a generally cool breeze, but no.  The combination of the humidity and the sick-death-pneumonia-black-plague I was suffering wasn’t going to allow anything remotely resembling a respectable time.

I started with the 1:45 pacer and quickly fell behind.  That said it wasn’t until perhaps the 9th or 10th mile, where there was a turnaround in Colt State Park that I saw the 2:00 pacer on the other side of the street heading the opposite way that I realized I was completely screwed.

My running dynamics were reasonably on point – 172 spm average is not far off where I wanted to be at 180, but my stride was terrible and my heart rate was terrible and life was terrible and everything sucks.

ALL OF THAT SAID, My time was my worst half ever. Straight up. No doubt. No excuses.

BUT, it turns out that comparatively, I didn’t have as bad a day as I may have. I mean I have some mitigating circumstances — so does everyone else — but despite my shitty time, I finished about where I would normally finish percentage wise, perhaps a little slower than I may have expected, but overall Dead in the middle. 50.6% for my age.

I had a shitty race. No doubt. But it looks like a lot of other folks had a shitty race too, and I have to imagine not all of them were sick. My race buddy Mike, who was shooting for a 1:45 finished with 2:01, so I know I don’t completely suck.

This will be a redemption race next year, I’m sure, but for now, the humiliation of having put some 3000 miles on my odometer since my first half and this one and finishing 6-minutes slower stings. Worst. Half. Ever.  Redemption will be forthcoming.

Previous Results

Independence Rhode Race: 2:06:32
Horseneck Half Marathon: 1:57:29
New Bedford Half Marathon: 1:48:57
Clearwater Half Marathon: 1:56:32
Cambridge Half Marathon: 1:57:38
Upton State Forest Half Marathon (Trail): 2:18:01.9
Worcester Half Marathon: 1:51:56
Black Goose Half Marathon: 2:00:48